Each fiscal year, the United States issues up to 50,000 visas to people from countries that have historically been under-represented in U.S. immigration. These are immigrant visas, which allow the beneficiary to apply for lawful permanent residence (a green card).

Millions of people apply each year for a chance at one of these coveted visas, but only about 50,000 are issued. The winners are selected by lottery. To qualify for the visa, you must have a high school education (or its equivalent) and two years of qualifying work experience within the last five years.

If selected, you must generally have a passport, be admissible to the United States, and be ready to immediately go through an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Many 2021 diversity visa lottery winners didn’t receive their promised visas

Over 20,000 people who won the 2021 diversity visa lottery have sued the U.S. government because they never received the visas. According to the Associated Press, the government only issued about a quarter of the visas this fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department says there were two reasons for the failure to issue the visas: the coronavirus pandemic and the prioritization of other visa types once the Biden administration reopened the United States for immigration earlier this year.

Many of the diversity visa lottery winners sued for their visas once the Trump administration put a freeze on green cards being issued outside the U.S., including diversity visas. Last year, a judge ordered the State Department to reserve 9,000 diversity visas for those people.

It won’t be enough.

One person who won the diversity visa lottery this year was Dorisnelly Fuentes Matos, a 27-year-old Cuban economics student. When she was notified that she had won the lottery, she was instructed to make herself available for an embassy or consular interview.

The office that handles interviews for Cuban nationals is in Guyana, and Ms. Matos and her husband quit their jobs and sold their home in order to be able to get there. She only has a three-month permit to say in Guyana. She has no way to go back to Cuba.

Matos and others are still awaiting their visas. If their lawsuit is successful, a judge will order the State Department to issue the visas even though the fiscal year has ended.

If you are interested in the diversity visa lottery or have questions about the 2021 lottery, contact Yew Immigration Law Group. Alison Yew is a board certified specialist in immigration and naturalization law.